CONCERN about some ‘grey areas’ of leasing and licensing agreements that allow backpackers to crowd into rooms – that don’t have sprinkler systems or generally comply with licensed Hostel standards – was aired at the 12 July Open Meeting of the Backpacker Operators Association of Victoria (BOAV).
THE BIG PICTURE VIEW is that the backpacker market is incredibly lucrative and neither government nor industry operators want to lose it to another favoured destination such as South Africa, through a tragedy such as Childers. Every business is entitled to make a profit, but when grey areas of the law create unfair advantage, and possibly danger, what can an organisation such as BOAV do – until such time as new legislation is enacted?
(i)Anecdotal evidence of overcrowding in ‘substandard’ rooms – but equally, some appartments are very nice eg Docklands Appartments. These rooms are not classified as hostel accommodation so councils can’t investigate or prosecute.
(ii) illegal hostels can easily undercut licensed premises as they don’t have the health and safety compliance overheads and don’t pay GST.
(iii) Backpacker magazines carry mobile phone ads for cheap accommodation – possibly illegal hostels – but stopping these ads would not stop word of mouth promotion.
THE MEETING CONCLUDED that BOAV needs a well thought-through strategy that considers:
– what NSW is already doing;
– gathering concrete evidence;
– checking definitions to establish what needs closer attention in the law;
– approaching the Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV)
– contacting the magazines distributing the ads for ‘illegal hostels’ to indicate industry concern;
– speaking to the Minister for Tourism;
– investigating media follow-up